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Lucy Brand: The First Woman Voter of New York

The National Citizen and Ballot Box was a monthly journal deeply involved in the roots of the American feminist movement. It was owned and edited by Matilda Joslyn Gage, American women’s rights advocate, who helped to lead and publicize the suffrage movement in the United States.

Lucy Brand Votes

How she Heard the News. How she Voted.

Mrs. Lucy A. Brand, Principal of the Genesee School of this city, a woman with abilities as good as those of any male principal, but who, because she is a woman, receives five hundred and fifty dollars less salary a year than a male principal, was the first woman in the State of New York to cast a vote under the new school law.

On Saturday afternoon she was at a friend’s house, when the Journal was thrown in, containing the first editorial notice of the passage of the law. Mrs. Brand saw the welcome announcement. “Let us go and register,” she at once said, her heart swelling with joy and thankfulness that even this small quantity of justice had been done woman. “Where is my shawl? I feel as if I should die, if I don’t get there,” for the hour was late, and the time for closing the registry lists was near at hand. To have lost this opportunity would have placed her in position of a second Tantalus, the cup withdrawn just as it touched her lips.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s Women’s Suffrage Collection. We can provide access to fully searchable newspapers by and for women including The Lily (1849-1856), National Citizen and Ballot Box (1878-1881), The Revolution (1868-1872), The New Citizen (1909-1912), The Western Woman Voter (1911-1913), and the antisuffrage newspaper, The Remonstrance (1890-1913).

But she was in time, and the important act of registering accomplished, she had but to possess her soul in patience, until the following Tuesday. Who shall say how long the two intervening days were to her, but Tuesday morning at last arrived, when for the first time, Mrs. Brand was to exercise the freeman’s right of self-government A gentleman, the owner of the block in which she resided, offered to accompany her to the polls, although he was a Democrat and knew Mrs. Brand would vote the Republican ticket. Although not hesitating to go alone, Mrs. Brand accepted this courtesy. As she entered the polling place, the men present fell back in a semi-circle. Not a sound was heard, not a whisper, not a breath. In silence and with a joyous solemnity well befitting the occasion, Mrs. Brand cast her first vote, at five minutes past eight in the morning. The post-master of the city, Mr. Chase, offered his congratulations. A few ordinary remarks were exchanged, and then Mrs. Brand left the place. And that was all; neither more nor less. No opposition, no rudeness, no jostling crowd of men, but such behavior as is seen when Christians come together at the sacrament.

I have long known Mrs. Brand as a noble woman, but talking with her a few days since, I could but notice the added sense of self-respecting dignity that freedom gives. “I feel a constant gratitude that even some portion of my rights have been recognized,” said she, and I left her, more than ever impressed, if that is possible, with the beauty and sacredness of freedom.

Source: National Citizen and Ballot Box, March, 1880

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